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How old were the disciples? In their teens? Old men with grey beards and walking staffs?
The theory of a young age of the disciples
I first heard the theory from Ray Vander Laan, one of my favorite Bible History teachers; that the twelve disciples were all under the age of 20 with the exception of Peter. Honestly, I felt a huge burden lift from my brain. I can’t tell you how often I’ve struggled with how stupid and immature I’ve believed those incorrigible twelve to be! To age them in adolescence increases their reputation, at least in my book, by leaps and bounds.
So, right off the bat, I like the idea. But, is it biblical?
The pros for a young age
I’ve listed some of the arguments Ray Vander Laan makes to support his theory as detailed on the discussion board (updated 2018. A new page on his site on the rabbi and talmid.) on his website, Follow the Rabbi.
The temple tax
In Exodus 30:14-15, Jewish law states that every male over the age of 20 is to pay a half-shekel as census offering when they visit the temple of God. In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus instructs Peter to “fish up” this tax. Peter finds a shekel in the mouth of the fish he catches; enough to pay the tax for two men, himself and Jesus. You could conclude that the others were underage and did not need to pay.
The use of the term “little ones”
In Matthew 11:25, Luke 10:21, and John 13:33, Jesus calls his disciples little children; a bit insulting if they were adults.
They were unmarried
We learn that Peter had a wife when Jesus healed his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15). In those ancient times, a Jewish man receives a wife after the age of 18. Again, no other disciples’ wives are mentioned. You could deduce then, that they were unmarried, hence under the age of 18.
The education system of Israel at the time of Jesus
In Avot 5 (from the Mishnah: rabbinical commentary that was added to the Old Testament), we learn of the ancient Jewish education traditions: scripture study begins at age 5; Mishnah study at 10; Torah obligations at 13; continued rabbinical study at 15 if chosen to be tutored by a formal teacher or apprenticed to a trade; marriage at 18; formal teaching at 30.
Jewish children began intensive study at young ages, but education for most concluded by age 15. For those bright (or wealthy) enough, higher education consisted of studying under a local rabbi, and if they were distinguished, they could begin teaching at the age of 30. If they didn’t find a rabbi that accepted them as a student (much like a college entrance application), then they entered the workforce by their mid teens. The disciples, already working at their trades, must have been rejected for formal education by other rabbis when Jesus hand-picked them for further education as his disciples. In light of this, a younger age is more probable than older. A youth would be in the mindset of continuing his education. A man over 30 leaving his trade to follow a rabbi would be counter-cultural; not impossible (Jesus was definitely counter-cultural), but more likely they were younger than older.
The zeal and folly of youth
The behavior of the disciples, as detailed in the gospels, fits well with the zealous nature and foolishness of adolescence. Doesn’t it make more sense that teenagers were arguing over who would be greatest in Jesus’ reign than grown men? Picture a gang of teens instead of work-hardened men in the boat when the storm hit, fear-stricken and waking up Jesus for help. The forgetful and distracted nature of youth helps me understand how they could hear Jesus say he would die and come back to life, yet act as they did when these things happened. They were kids! They hadn’t been paying attention in class. Yet, they were quick to admit their failures, and showed they had limitlessness amount of energy in storming the country with the good news of Messiah. When I age them under twenty, I better understand Jesus’ patience with them, his low expectations of their behavior, and his teaching style. To me, who has struggled to not judge the stupidity of the actions of the “grown men” disciples, it just makes sense.
The cons for a young age
As with any teacher or author who goes on record, there are critics. Chuck May details his objections to Vander Laan’s Jewish premises in his paper, “How Jewish do you have to be to understand the Bible?” (Download this paper at the end of the post.) I don’t agree with his objections, but I thought his points against the young age of the disciples worthy of consideration.
Matthew was a tax collector.
The Bible doesn’t say Matthew was apprenticed to be a tax collector, or that his father was a tax collector, but that Matthew himself was a Roman appointed tax agent. Would the Romans have trusted a teenager with this job? I frankly don’t know, so I can’t say either way. But it may be a valid point.
Jesus gave his mother to John.
At the cross, Jesus gives the care of his mother to John. At this point, if you take the young age view, John could have been as young as 13. Would Jesus have trusted a little boy to this task? You could argue, Jesus knew John would outlive all the others so he was the most reliable! Jesus was also close to John and may have recognized he could handle this solemn responsibility. I think of the young pioneers in the early settling of the west who were entrusted to care for the family at very young ages. Age may not have mattered to Jesus, but its worth considering. (Note: this is assuming you believe the beloved disciple was John. See this post: Unsolved Mystery.)
Does it really matter?
Nah. Its impossible to say one way or the other, and since the Bible doesn’t make a big deal of it, neither will I. I like the idea of a younger age for the disciples, because it appeals to my common sense. But, it doesn’t harm the gospel at all to age them traditionally in their twenties and thirties. So take your pick!
What age do you prefer?
How old were the disciples? In their teens? Old men with grey beards and walking staffs? I think they were all under the age of 21.Tweet
98 thoughts on “Jesus’ Disciples: A teenage posse? (Updated 2022)”
I don’t know how I came across your blog, but I find it intriguing.
I am going to have to share it with my friends via Facebook, because I want everyone to read it.
I have dabbled in apologetics for many years and I find it strange that so many people are unwilling to look at information from a different viewpoint. I suppose we are afraid of having our beliefs shaken. I for one, find that understanding who recorded God’s word, and what their lives may have been like, helps me to understand what they were really saying, which, in turn, gives me a deeper understanding of what He is trying to teach me.
Great comment, Batroni. I couldn’t agree more. It really changes one’s perspective once realizing how young the disciples were when Jesus called them. Some go so far as to argue that John was in his very early teens.
What I’ve found amusing is that just questioning this kind of tradition often sends people into apoplexy. 🙂 The same happened when I dared question 4th Gospel authorship and the default position on eschatology.
In my view, the only way to hone and refine a thesis is to do everything in one’s power to disprove it. But, that’s not often what we have a tendency to do. We seem to have an innate yearning to confirm rather than test that which we believe. Confirmation bias might be the greatest deterrent to approximating truth. Well, good luck on your journey!
[…] According to the blog The Happy Surprise, “In Avot 5 (from the Mishnah: rabbinical commentary that was added to the Old Testament), we […]
I will post this as a new comment, although it is a continuation of a discussion above. Yes, as Witherington says in http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/2007/01/was-lazarus-the-beloved-disciple.html there is evidence for equating Lazarus with the Beloved Disciple, but his argument is not without holes.
We know that the Chief Priests planned to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus (Jn 12:9-11). The disciple who was known to the High Priest (Jn 18:15-16) was ‘another disciple’ (check the translations on Bible Hub). There is no indication that ‘another disciple’ = the Beloved Disciple. Indeed, one can make the argument that as the Chief Priests planned to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus, they would not fail to take advantage of his presence in the High Priest’s house. In my opinion, ‘another disciple’ here is more likely to refer to a follower of Jesus who lived in Jerusalem, possibly Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus, or someone otherwise unnamed, like the owner of the Upper Room.
It is also risky positively to link leprosy in the ancient world with Hansen’s disease, as any skin disease would make one unclean: https://courses.cit.cornell.edu/nes263/student2007/ass43/definition.html
With these two caveats, Witherington’s thesis is quite attractive.
In John 18:15-16 and John 20:2, the other disciple is both times mentioned as being with Peter. This could be the same person or not. Since in John 20:2, the “other” disciple is clarified as being the Beloved Disciple, there is the consistency of storytelling titles to consider. But, it could just as easily have been Nic or Joe. I actually prefer it being one of those two men. But in John 21:2 there are two “other” disciples… so I don’t think we can say that the “other” disciple is a title equal to the “beloved’ disciple. But, having the “other” disciple referencing two different people doesn’t affect the argument that Lazarus was a likely author of the Fourth Gospel, does it? It is clear that the “another disciple” that was with Peter in the tomb was the one Jesus loved, which was established in John 11 as Lazarus.
Simon the Leper as Lazarus’ father
I thought this was a little far fetched, to be honest. Possibly yes, but I think it was extreme enough to be mentioned in the text if the entire family were lepers.
What I appreciated from Witherington’s article, that I have not read (or at least it didn’t stick with me) elsewhere, is this:
It makes sense to me that the person who added the appendix might “edit” in the title of “the Beloved Disciple” and also have picked up the reputation of being the author of the Fourth Gospel himself. If this person was John of Patmos (whether this was a son of Zebedee or the Elder), then he was in the habit of using coded language, wasn’t he? 🙂 I thought Witherington’s point then explaining the author of 2 and 3 John as “the elder” was particularly compelling.
I was convinced by Chuck and J Phillip’s arguments years ago that Lazarus was the Fourth Gospel’s author, but I appreciated Witherington’s additional insights.
[…] Peter were old enough (20 years old or more) to pay the tax (see Exodus 30:14-15 and take a look at this blog and this follow up […]
[…] Peter were old enough (20 years old or more) to pay the tax (see Exodus 30:14-15 and take a look at this blog and this follow up […]
[…] in regards to size, one view of Jesus’ ministry suggests most of his disciples were youth. Essentially, a youth group of 12. That seemed to work […]
Hey guys, a lot of great insight shared but can I remind you being a young christian myself that we do not loose sight of the gospel and the bible clearly states in 2 Timothy 2:14 “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ[c] depart from iniquity.”
Already in reading the above treads, I noticed how quickly the conversation shifts from age of disciples to singling of John and what he may or may not have done. I ask myself, does that really matter compared to the impact and confidence we can give people just focussing on the initial subject matter and how every age bracket is represented in scripture playing a significant role in the Kingdom of God.
Anyway, just thought to add my two pence worth, God bless you all.
[…] https://kbonikowsky.wordpress.com/…/jesus-disciples-a-teen…/ […]
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[…] Peter were old enough (20 years old or more) to pay the tax (see Exodus 30:14-15 and take a look at this blog and this follow up […]
Wasn’t Luke a doctor?
Yes, but Luke was not one of the twelve.
I think they were about half and half so their ministry would reach all ages. Peter, Matthew, Simon the zealot, a couple others 20 and up. We notice with the exception of Peter the older ones are relatively silent choosing to watch and learn, mature enough to understand their ignorance. Peter, I think may have had ADD, usually was acting and soaking with the misguided notion many of us have that God need’s our protection. John, Andrew, James Phillip among the 20 and under crowd. have always contended at the very least John was teenager around 15 or so. I think we need to see that Jesus did not just give responsibility of Mary to John, He also gave John to Mary. He knew one needed the other just as badly for varying reasons. Mary would need a reason after Jesus died to keep living taking care of John would give her that and John’s personality seems perhaps was most similar to Jesus after transforming from a “son of thunder” to the beloved. I think Jesus recognized Mary’s need to see a reflection of His work to help her work through her grief. John by all indication was a very sensitive loving creature who seems to need close physical (he often laid on Christ chest) contact, relationship, and conversations. Mary could give Him that. Taking care of each other they put down their own crosses and picked up each other’s becoming our first post crucifixion example of bearing one another’s burdens.
Good thoughts. Do you have any reason to believe some of the others were older? Or just your thoughts? Remember, we don’t know for sure the “beloved disciple” was John, so be careful reading too much into the relationship ties. I appreciate your comments! (I laughed on the ADD behavior of Peter.)
Thank you for this post. I enjoyed it! It brought our some really good points and educated me in areas I appreciate. One thing I would say is the statement you make, “I can’t tell you how often I’ve struggled with how stupid and immature I’ve believed those incorrigible twelve to be!”
The thing I think of when I read that statement and then began to read your post is that of all the Disciples, I always think of Peter as the most foolish in his ways….yet it appears he may have been the only one of age…
That challenges me in my faith to walk in reckless abandonment for Jesus….it takes away alog with other scriptures, the excuse that God wouldn’t call me to do this or that, because I have a family…honestly that’s why i Googled this topic…hoping I would get out of some things I think he’s calling me to do, by rebutting that the disciples were teenagers, so they could do it easier…lol
Coming very late to this theme, I have two points to add.
In John 11:1-44 we have the resurrection of Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary. Martha and Mary also appear in Luke 10:38-42 (this time without Lazarus being mentioned). If all three are living together in one house, it suggests that none of them are married and that Lazarus is working to look after his sisters (which explains their concern when he becomes sick) while the older sister, Martha, is looking after the house. This would also imply that their parents are probably dead.
In Acts 21:8-9 Paul and his companions reach Caesarea, where they call on Philip (one of the seven deacons, so not an apostle but one who was part of the group in Jesusalem before the Martyrdom of Stephen). Philp has four unmarried daughters who prophesied. If we place this at CE 58, then it suggests that the oldest daughter was not born earlier than CE 40, another piece of circumstantial evidence in favour of Stephen and therefore the apostles being teenagers.
Thanks for that insight!
I believe most of them were in their mid 20’s may be 26 or 27 and may be there was a couple teens. The reason I think most were in there mid 20’s is because after Jesus died at 33 1/2 his disciples began preaching/ teaching which means they had to be at least 30 in that custom. I doubt Jesus would call 10 teenagers and 2 people in their mid 20s .. May be it was the other way around. 10 people in their mid 20’s and 2 teens. The shekel assumption is nothing more than an assumption. The other disciples could have paid that ahead of time or before Jesus did and the other person over 20. It really doesn’t matter although it is interesting.
Henry, you merely dealt with one aspect of the “young age” argument and then did nothing more than give your opinion. Kbon did an admirable job of providing the pros and cons to the young age theory. And since the pros significantly outweighed the cons, she came to the conclusion, as I did, that the disciples were, for the most part, a rather young group. To be clear, “The shekel assumption” was not provided as an absolute proof of the disciple’s young ages, but simply was melded with the rest of the evidence that you, for whatever reason, chose to ignore.
[…] interesting blog page of one person's idea that most of the disciples could have been teenagers: Jesus’ Disciples: A teenage posse? | The Happy Surprise The Age of the Disciples Ditto | The Happy Surprise My interest in Biblical stories is a really […]
Hi, thanks for this post. It helps me see some biblical proof about the ‘teenage disciples’ which I first heard in one of Ryan Rhoades’s videos. It reminds me of Jesus teaching about the New wine on new wineskin on Mk 2:22.
“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Hello? The disciples were with Jesus a pretty good amount of time. What if they were young and the time Jesus called them but then they got older when Jesus died (which some specualte that he was in his late 30’s when he died). This gives the disciples plenty if time to “grow-up”. Especially if they were called in their late teens. Like John. Jesus could have called him when he was 17 (arbitrary age) but then he gave his mother to him when he was like 27 (again, arbitrary age). So seriously. Nobody stays in their teens forever (although that would be cool). 🙂
I believe the disciples spent 3 years with Jesus, and Jesus was 33 when he died. But, maybe you know something I don’t! 🙂
I second that motion, Kbon! If, according to this article’s first point, all the disciples (with the exception of Peter) were less than 20 in Matthew 17 (which was less than a year from the cross), most of them would have undoubtedly still been under 20 by the crucifixion. And John may have been 15 or 16!
“In Exodus 30:14-15, Jewish law states that every male over the age of 20 is to pay a half-shekel as census offering when they visit the temple of God. In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus instructs Peter to “fish up” this tax. Peter finds a shekel in the mouth of the fish he catches; enough to pay the tax for two men, himself and Jesus. You could conclude that the others were underage and did not need to pay.”
Though pinning specific dates to Biblical events can be a somewhat dodgy due to calendar alterations, most believe that Jesus was born in 3 BC and was crucified in 30 AD at the age of 33. So, when the Gospels were penned in the early 60’s AD, that still would have put most of the disciples in their mid to late 40’s at that time. As was the intent of Kbon, reading the Gospels with the realization of the disciple’s young ages, greatly enhances and magnifies the reactions to various events as well as lend new insight into the dialogues.
Dustin, can you imagine being in your mid-30’s and having your Mom approach your mentor arguing for you to have a more prominent place in the Kingdom? Given the rapid maturity of kids at that time, that would be more like someone in their 50’s today having their mother plead with their boss for an upcoming promotion.
Realizing that these fellows were so young really brings the Bible to life. And Kbon has done us all a great service. 🙂
Well, either way. I’m just saying, a lot of times we try to explain things by giving historic people a single age for years of events (which makes certain evens harder to explain). Even if the disciples were with Jesus only three years, im pretty sure they would have had enough time to mature from being scared of a storm to Jesus having enough faith in them to let them take care of his mother. An 18 year old is usually more mature than a 15 year old. Either way, i do agree that the possibility of the disciples being young makes so much more sense.
Dustin wrote: “Even if the disciples were with Jesus only three years, im pretty sure they would have had enough time to mature from being scared of a storm to Jesus having enough faith in them to let them take care of his mother. An 18 year old is usually more mature than a 15 year old.”
Up until the time she died at age 86, my mother still hid under the bed when a severe storm was fast approaching. LoL. No matter the age, the raging surf in the Sea of Galillee crashing over a first century fishing boat, could cause experienced fisherman to grit their teeth in abject fear. When we visited that area we were told that the lake often appears like a ripple-less pond, the wicked storms in consort with the lake’s basin-like construction, can cause waves to crash over the perimeter road.
Because of tradition, the same tradition that has perpetuated the older age of the disciples, assumes with no proof, that one of the 12 took Mary into his home… presumably perhaps the youngest of the 12, the Apostle John. But we are told that the disciples fled in fear. Matter of fact, when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection, they were still in a state of abject disbelief. All 11 at that point, which included John.
So we need to prove that, although the Apostle John was being excoriated along with the rest for his lack of faith and his overwhelming display of fear as they were hovelled in that room, that he, above the rest, braved the cross. However, Dustin, there is nothing we learn from the synoptic accounts that would lead us to believe John was the beloved disciple. So my guess is that the apostle John was not the follower of Jesus whom Jesus entrusted his mother with.
THis is Really Good stuff and boy it makes you really think of the Gospel in a whole new light, their actions what they did how they responded ect…… good post keep it comming 🙂
please help me I came across many discussions and now I am 16 year old boy and want to live my life being a disciple of Jesus and I want to get closer to God please help me tell me more.
The best place to start is by reading the Bible… a good place to start is in the New Testament, perhaps John or Luke.
I agree knowing, understanding and obeying Gods word is the most important aspect of your young faith. I recommend getting a study bible and asking an older Christian that you trust to help you as you journey through Gods word.
I came late to this discussion, but Youth with a Mission has proved the value and power of young people to touch the earth with the power of the Gospel now for 50 years teens have taken the gospel to the ends of the earth like waves.
I like what John B said the other day, he sees the disciples as younger, perhaps teens, but in our culture we have four classes of people, babies, children, teens and adults. But in the Biblical Mind set there are three, babies, children and adults at 13 years of age, perhaps Mary was 13, 14, or 15 years of age when Jesus was born.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 ESV)
So as young people, we’re supposed to set an example for older believers. We shouldnt be caught in the stupidity of youth. I’m only 17, and I’ve come to realize that. Yes I fail constantly, but who doesn’t? The bible says that all have sinned and have fallen short. I’m not saying its okay, and there’s forgiveness but you shouldn’t live in sin.
All I know is that I don’t want to disappoint my savior. Not all adolescents are childish; we’re called to reach past that.
Click to access 1506_young-and-unashamed.pdf
^thats really interesting. it was written by a guy my age.
Alicia, those are very poignant words. I’m grateful that you’ve taken your calling so seriously. People tend to live up to expectations and if the bar is set so incredibly low, most will live up to and not beyond those very low standards. Though a young person doesn’t yet have a plethora of life experiences to pool from, folks such as yourself have every bit of the Holy Spirit that those have in their 50’s or 80’s. Train your gaze upon Yeshua and He will do great things through you!
In John 15:6 Jesus tells the pharisees how they have made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions….that’s the problem with old people; they are set in their ways, they have built monuments around what they have learned ages ago when the universe keeps on expanding and leaves no room for a monumental way of thinking:
When Israel was in Egypt the lamb was unto a family, then in Aaron’s order the lamb was unto the nation (Israel) but in the new testament (the order of Milchizedek) it is a lamb unto the world (“behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”)
Religion is when one does not follow God in the progressive revelation and sticks to what they know; only adults do so NOT little children that’s the crisis of tradition and culture but children subscribe to mental mobility.
Infact traditions and culture are evil for they divide us when Christ is One and if We are the Body of Christ then We are Christ and are members of one another and it’s not by crusades or “prosperity” that the world will beilieve that We are His disciples, NO but it’s when We love One another and this does not mean showing each other affection as our modern dictionary would define love but it’s when we come to the realisation that “you are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” “for no man has ever hated his own body”.
So the emphasis of “love one another” is not on the “goodly acts” for those are fake but it’s when you are German and look at a brother in the Lord who is Nigerian and see yourself in that person just as a mother sees herself in her newborn baby hence the automatic attachment and haevy bond that makes them unseperable…and she would die for her child naturally without anyone preaching to her because “greater love has no man than this…than to lay his life for his friends”.
Until we are able to see beyond the fake identity of skin colour, hair texture and backround then our eyes are still holding and We do not recognize the risen Lord and therefore our faith is in vain (“if Christ be not risen” or if we fail to recognize the risen Christ) and We do not know Love nor God for God is love.
Why in vain? because without Love all is in vain even our faith that may move mountains.
Then,”Do you Love me? Feed my Sheep.” takes on new Spiritual understanding and clarity. Praise God We indeed Are The Body of Christ.
Wow this is interesting read, opens an opportunity for great investigations.
I believe that the age of Jesus and His disciples are very important hence scripture documents it very well that Jesus was 12 when He spoke to the doctors in the temple being “about My Father’s business”.
It is important to note that although scriptures have left out many details however all truth is revealed even between the lines…that’s what we call “searching out a matter” “Pro 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. ”
It’s interesting to note the following:
Mat 20:20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
By the sound of the above verse these 2 were also Jesus’ disciples were young boys under mommies supervision.
The point I want to stress about the importance of age here is that as the author here points out that Jesus called His disciples “little children” it is important to note that it was Jesus who said that the kingdom of God belonged to the little children and unless one becomes like them they would not enter into it.
In the Old testament God bypasses Eli who was the priest and goes to Samuel a little boy and so goes the story of Jeremiah.
“Mat 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes”
The kingdom of God belongs to the little children/ babes not because “they are innocent and just accept whatever they are told” for if you have raised or have been around little children you will understand that they NEVER just accept anything but have a desire to LEARN and UNDERSTAND hence the unending questions “what, who, where and why?” you will keep hearing from them until you discourage them.
“Mat 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and LEARN of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
So after you have attained salvation your task, the yoke you need to bear is that of LEARNING so that you may get understanding for Faith comes by undertstanding/ revelation.
“Psa 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
It is even clear in the natural that children are by far greater learners than adults because they are “meek” (teachable), check Matt 11:29 and you will see Jesus calls Himself meek…..”the meek shall inherit the earth.”
Albert Einstein once said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
We all know that learning stops when one stops asking questions
“Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Clearly Jesus never called us to be sheep that follows Him blindly, infact the ultimate call is not to become a follower:
“Mat 8:19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
Mat 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
If you know national geographics is good then you know that foxes don’t live in holes nor do birds live in nests but foxes only make holes when they want to reproduce and birds only make nests when they want to reproduce so the laying of His head Jesus was talking about reproduction and NOT resting as many have come to think.
Jesus was simply telling this man that He was not looking for followers but for people on whom He would reproduce Himself for just as a fox will reproduces what is identical to itself so if one becomes spiritually be-headed and Jesus lays His head on the be-headed body that person would be identical to Jesus.
And the only way Christ can reproduce Himself in one is by that person LEARNING from Him, that’s what many natural fathers do they try to lay their heads on their sons so he may see himself in his son…that’s the kingdom of God.
For clearly only God can rule in the Kingdom of God so you would have to carry God’s head (just as the Church is called the “Body of Christ” which means it carries His Head….that’s why the kingdom of God belongs to the little ones.
The picture of a middle-aged European Jesus is false.
@Jaimie. I read Matt 9:9-10 it does not say that the house belonged to Matthew or where Matthew lived.
Thanks for this article!
1) The argument (against the young view) was given here that Jesus entrusted his mother to John.
When John was told “there is your mother”, was it really telling him to look after her? Jesus did have brothers, evident by the time they told him “your mother and brothers are here to see you,” and by a NT letter written by James, the brother of the Lord. It is likely that the younger brothers of Jesus, who himself was in his thirties, would be adults.
Maybe, “there is your mother” meant something else?
2) The ages at which people learned under rabbis is a very convincing point for starting with the assumption of youth.
3) I always assumed that John was a teen, from the fact that he was a disciple roundabout AD 30, and his books are dated 90-100 AD. After reading these comments, I’m not so sure the late dating is right, or that the writer John is the disciple John. If his gospel was written circa 90 AD, and Lazurus was not that young circa 30 AD, Lazurus is unlikely.
4) Another assumption about Jesus’disciples is that Jesus had only 12, but the twelve was chosen from among Jesus’ disciples. At some stage He sends out 70/72 disciples to go ahead of him. At other places the gospel speak of the women who went with him. From the Mary/ Martha story its likely he’d have encouraged women to learn from him instead of just doing the manual work, and disciple mean student. Did Jesus perhaps have up to 70/72 female disciples and and 12+ male?
5) Knowing that Jesus had more than 12 disciples makes it easier, when reading “the disciple who Jesus loved, to assume that it could have been Lazarus. But still, when Jesus’ closest disciples are mentioned, when he takes only 3 people somewhere, it never include Lazarus.
Thanks for the comment. I like #4! I usually assume if the text says disciples it is referring to the larger number that included the women. The twelve (or the eleven) I always thought referred to the ones “God gave him” from John 17… the one Jesus “chose…” the larger group chose Him. Your idea is interesting!
Sharon: “It seemed odd to me that a mother would be speaking out for her older sons (as in 20-30)”
That’s a great point, Sharon! Unfortunately, many of our presuppositional layers may not be as well-founded as we think. This “Teenage posse” is a prime example. Thanks to this site, which is one of very few that has attempted to deal with this topic, for adding a little light to Scripture. Although in this particular case it’s not necessarily a big deal, in a sense, by making a poor assumption, it can rob us from some of the Bible’s richness.
About 5 years ago, I determined to to abide by the following modern day proverb: “We will never be right if are unwilling to be wrong.” And believe me, as I have applied that thought, my views have been found wanting more times than I can count. LOL
In addition, I have found the following quote from J.I. Packer to be equally helpful:
“We do not start our Christian lives by working out our faith for ourselves; it is mediated to us by Christian tradition, in the form of sermons, books and established patterns of church life and fellowship. We read our Bibles in the light of what we have learned from these sources; we approach Scripture with minds already formed by the mass of accepted opinions and viewpoints with which we have come into contact, in both the Church and the world. . . .
It is easy to be unaware that it has happened; it is hard even to begin to realize how profoundly tradition in this sense has molded us. But we are forbidden to become enslaved to human tradition, either secular or Christian, whether it be “catholic” tradition, or “critical” tradition, or “ecumenical” tradition. We may never assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice and excuse ourselves the duty of testing and reforming them by Scriptures. (Fundamentalism and the Word of God, by J.I. Packer.” [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958.] pp. 69-70)
Attempting to be faithful Bereans is a monumental task. It’s just so much easier believing what we are told. And I have never found that truer than in the case with eschatology. Even questioning the sacrosanct traditions of our day can land you a heretic label faster than the speed of light. LoL
This morning, as I was thinking about James and John’s mom seemingly interrupting Jesus as He was talking about His coming death and resurrection. She came with the request that her sons could sit at the right and left.
It seemed odd to me that a mother would be speaking out for her older sons (as in 20-30). So I started looking to see what I could find. I had never thought of the disciples as teens before, but this example makes much more sense when I think about them as teens. She was wanting the best for her boys and was bold enough to intrude. She must have been embarassed at the end of the day.
Anyway, I am certainly no bible scholar, but just love Jesus and want to love people as He did.
Kudos and well done.
Not only have you proven a good study of the Bible but a scholar as well.
The dating is superfluous to me regarding a preterist or psuedo-preterist position. I hold to neither. Like you, i desire the truth. The dating for other reasons are of more interest, not for eschatology alone but for many aspects of Theology- mainly because its intuitve. Yes, i said intuitive. That is one argument i will not offer to a church or my profs. 🙂
You asked, “Why doesn’t the author actually read Gentry’s book “Before Jerusalem Fell” and objectively consider and refute the arguments?” To be fair, the link i gave you was only a summary of a larger article so he may (though i doubt it, too). I did not want to pay $7 for the article to see what depths of rantings this guy would go on about 🙂
As to scholarship, either taken with salt or not at all, here is the link to the site which supplied the summary. There are some heavy hitters out here offering honest debate…
I should have included that link to show you where the article was retrieved, sorry.
You also said, “The article’s author began with a premise that his brand of eschatology is true and that therefore forced the late date theory.”
Amen and exactly right. My interest in understanding such a response is that many i have read or studied about- regarding a charted, in-depth full explanation of their eschatology always seem to include, as you say, “…the underhanded motives he attributed to Gentry, are in fact the exact same that accompany the eschatological gatekeepers he seems to favor.” This is a fine piece of writing and I believe you to be right but my thoughts could not express as well.
I might add that if one’s entire position is based solely on dating so as to enter debate, there’s ur problem. 🙂
I read at some earlier time an explanation of the issue with Irenaeus, THANK YOU for including a source and thank you for the reminder. These are some of the lost jewels of critical scholarship which shed concise and clear light on details of which i am unable to speak.
Besides, offering up someone else’s neck to be chopped on the block of disagreement can sometimes save relationships.
Whereas, on primary areas of doctrine I will gladly give my life (if He calls). My doctrine is sola scriptura. And i have danced around too long, formulating conclusions only on some areas of eschatology; but the Lord is calling me to do just as you admonish. So please pray that Light and not flashlights of tradition may shape illuminate these conclusions, so as to stand approved. I with you desire to shed as much of the “paradigm” as is possible.
Kudos also to your friend “who wrote.” Thank you for your responses and encouragement along the way.
May God Bless,
I think we are far afield from where this discussion began. LOL I was the one who brought up the earlier date of the Rev, so I am to blame. So I don’t feel all that comfortable moving the discussion into a full-blown eschatological inquiry. However, since dating Rev has already been entertained, I’ll throw a few more thoughts in the ring.
I read the one page summary that you hyperlinked and got a charge out of it. I must admit that the accusation seemed disingenuous (that Gentry had nefarious motivations). The reaction to Gentry’s conclusions was based solely on an unproved presupposition i.e. that the Revelation was written in the mid 90s. The evidence presented? None. Just mob rule. Fearful that any other eschatological view would gain a toehold on that basis alone, the author was so quick to bury the body that it may still be twitching. LOL
Don’t you think the author’s pleas were a mite biased by his own set of presups? Any potential evidence that might hinder his eschatological conclusions was scoffed at without even a hint of scholarship. This alone made me suspect. These kind of hit and run scare pieces are all over the internet, and all they serve to do is strike fear some paralyzing fear into those who may have been open-minded. And this tactical strategy has gone on for centuries. This particular instance is a classic example of how myths get propagated. After enough time passes, they move from fiction to fact with nary an eyebrow raised.
This kind of democratically-based monopoly reminds me of the flat earthers. All those who opposed them were considered scoundrels and heretics.
Why doesn’t the author actually read Gentry’s book “Before Jerusalem Fell” and objectively consider and refute the arguments? Wouldn’t this be the prudent method of handling objections?
Once I studied the evidence both pro and con, I was absolutely appalled. I had been duped by the “all scholars believe it so it must be true” slight of hand. I found the late date theory was based almost solely upon an ambiguous statement by 2nd century church father, Irenaeus. I almost blew a gasket!
The article’s author began with a premise that his brand of eschatology is true and that therefore forced the late date theory. In reality, the underhanded motives he attributed to Gentry, are in fact the exact same that accompany the eschatological gatekeepers he seems to favor. Once you lock down a late date you don’t even have to consider the contents in proximity to the Wars of the Jews from AD 66-70.
Quite frankly, I don’t care about anything but the truth. I go where the evidence leads. If the Revelation, and for that matter every NT book, was written prior to the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in AD 70, then so be it. I have no axes to grind. I’m 55 years old, been a Christian for 37 years and for the majority of my life believed what the scholars told me. Not until I turned 50 did I begin a serious quest for truth. Only after shedding as much of my paradigm as possible, have I been free to explore. I’ve never had this much fun.
The evidence in favor of 96 A.D. can be summed up as follows:
1) Oral tradition has it that John was banished to the isle of Patmos by the Emperor Domitian sometime around 96 A.D
2) A statement by Irenaeus, a second century “church father,”
3) The supposition that apostasy in the Asian churches prior to 96 A.D. is unlikely, and requires the later dating.
All internal Biblical evidence to the contrary, which in my view is far more weighty than the non-inspired comments of someone who wasn’t born until almost 100 years after John’s vision, it would seem that a more honest appraisal would have taken place.
A friend of mine wrote:
“This is the only evidence of any value (#2 above), and it is so slight as to be nearly worthless. Irenaeus was a church father of the second century, many of whose letters have come down to us. Concerning the mystic number of the beast given Revelation 13:18, Irenaeus says thus: “If it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it was not a great while ago that (it or he) was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian’s reign.”
It should be observed that the subject of the verb “was seen” is ambiguous, and may be understood to refer to either John or the apocalypse. To argue as do some that the subject of the verb is the apocalypse is purely arbitrary. In fairness, either John or the apocalypse may be the subject. But what is the point of saying the vision was seen in recent times? The nearness of the vision cannot not open the symbols of the book. It was the author John to whom it belonged to expound the meaning of the mystic name.
Thus if the reference is to anything, it would seem to be to John. However, even if Irenaeus’ statement is granted to mean what advocates of the 96 A.D. say, this is the only independent, external evidence favoring that date.
But did Irenaeus refer to Domitian? Robert Young, author of Young’s Analytical Concordance, wrote a commentary on Revelation published prior to 1885 wherein he makes the following statement: “It was written in Patmos about A.D. 68, whither John had been banished by Domitius Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac version of the book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus in A.D. 175, who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou – i.e., Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius, Orosius, etc., stupidly mistaking Dimitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaeus to refer to Domitian, A.D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholly in favor of the early date.”
Because of the ambiguity of Irenaeus’ statement and the identity of the emperor he referred to, there is such a divergence of scholarly opinion regarding the credibility of the Irenaeus quotation as to render it almost worthless as external evidence of the later date. Thus the whole of the evidence favoring the date of 96 A.D. comes down to something little more than nothing. Moreover there is no internal evidence in the book itself upon which to corroborate this date, but much against. Therefore, let us proceed to examine the evidence for an earlier dating.”
Well, thanks to the blog’s indulgence as we skewed the original topic far afield. I think the disciple’s young ages, the 4th Gospel not-John authorship and the early Rev date, each in their own right speak to the problems with non-inspired traditions.
Chris, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope you do well to show yourself approved.
Same to you brother. Did you know that you write like an angel. Prose drips from your every keystroke!
Nice rubbing shoulder with you as well. I love running across those who are passionate about God’s Word while they allow it, not the doctrines of men, to reshape their paradigm.
BTW, most amils I know argue for Rev’s late date. They can’t reconcile Rev 22:15 in the light of the 5 near term time referents in that last chapter… (Rev 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20)
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, giving praise to our Lord for the amazing blessings he’s bestowed upon us.
Thank you for your kind words.
Here’s an interesting site, not one i agree with regarding position, but has an abundance of source materials in electronic format. Unfortunately the preterist position created a growing anti-semitism among the church. I believe the earlier dating helps their position, mainly.
You obviously know your Bible and have developed a more thorough eschaton than i, but must write a Doctrinal Summary this week on Eschatology.
I am struggling most with Rev 20:5-6- i lean towards spiritualizing the “first.”
I am not intending to hijack this thread but few sites offer someone of your quick understanding on pertinent issues of which i must research for a degree.
I must make myself clear- i am not a preterist, “historic,” “hyper” or “full.” However to enter the debate on dating we must be careful to admit that this indeed does strengthen the ‘original’ amills.
Since i had asked for documentation from you i will offer some on this because, whether it helps or hinders a position, we must recognize it opens the door for opposing positions on the same point of dating. The following is an excerpt found on:
“THE PRETERI[s]T VIEW: (One Page Summary)
STRAINING AT AT GNAT AND SWALLOWING A CAMEL
Dating the writing of the Book of the Revelation is the first order of business for those who hold the Preterit View (that all “end time” Scriptures were fulfilled with the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD). Preterist Dr. Gentry put it this way: “…the matter of Revelation’s date of composition is CRUCIAL to the correct [preterit] understanding of the book…the matter of dating is ALL-IMPORTANT to the identity of the Beast [of Revelation].” (The Beast of Revelation, pp.6,7.)
The bottom line here is that Preterists themselves understand that their model cannot even exist without a composition date for the Revelation [to be] somewhere between late 64 and early 68 AD. That is the only way their model can try to cast the Emperor Nero or anyone else in the role of the Beast….
This admission by itself is enough to run up the odds against this eschatological hypothesis to about 1000 to 1. In addition to the fact that an impressive list of scholars date the composition around 95 AD, the early date–absolutely necessary, remember…”
I have to add to this guys comment to include a possible +4yr to the dating of the fall as well as expand the dating to uphold his own argument to 60-72 A.D. for the dating of the document.
As you said above, “between the spring of 66 to the fall of 70” fulfills (granted only one condition of the position) the crucial task of allowing a preterist toehold because of early dating. I believe it falls woefully short on many other points for such a strange position. And I agree with you on the points of which they fail to answer adequately.
I rejoice in seeing strongholds overtaken and applaud all efforts to do so. However, i must be careful to allow strength to each position in its due so as not to place my own cultural bias. I am guilty of this especially regarding the “intermediate state”.
Thank you for your efforts.
Thank you also for your explanation of Rev dating. I smell a little amill brewing. 🙂 But i am not a preterist. There is an “already” and a “not yet” quality to the eschatological arc of the NT. There are many fulfillments from Jerusalem’s fall but the “yet to comes” are a source of hope if not some sense of mystery in our doctrine.
You mentioned 50 years of the “eschatological paradigm… spelling defeat?” More like 200. 🙂
So, if you hear of a specific commentary or Journal Article even making a sideways conjecture, let me know.
I thank God for those willing to rub against the grain to fell traditions that pervert our perspective of God and His Truth in Christ.
May God richly bless you and yours through this week of special Thanksgiving.
What an awesome surprise. I love your zeal for the truth and now I more fully understand what you desire. At the moment I can’t help. A pastor friend of mine included RVL’s thoughts in a sermon he preached some time ago and that was the first I’d heard of it. Then I found the nice article on this site.
I’ll see what I can do but I can’t promise you success. I think my friend found the content in a larger commentary or a more comprehensive medium than merely dealing with the disciple’s ages.
Glad to hear about the hermeneutical advancements. I certainly am not averse to tradition, but it does get slightly frustrating when people won’t allow Scripture to override the traditions of men.
Re the book of Rev. The reason the dating is so important, is because the scholars have for years been hiding behind the 95-96 date. The contents, fit the 3.5 year period between the spring of 66 to the fall of 70 like a glove. However, since it was deemed to have been written in 96, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 could not have been in the author’s sights. Therefore confusion and misdirection abounded. Now the playing field has been leveled because many scholars are realizing that the Rev, and for that matter all of the NT Canon was written prior to 70.
So now it becomes an exegetical issue that the opponents were able to circumvent prior to this early date evidence.
At any rate, so glad you’re making headway. In my view, we live in the coolest times in the history of the World. More access to the Bible and Scriptural tools than ever. Once we shake off the eschatological paradigm that has spelled the Church’s defeat for the past 50 years, things will really begin to change for the better. And it will be none too soon.
Blessings your way Chris. Thanks for the clarification.
Thank you for the fresh information about the DWJL. I am super intrigued. I think I have to do a lot of digging to get more proofs. I like your passion. The church needs more people like you to challenge the others and keep them on their toes. Keep up the good work.
Thank you for your very generous comment. When I first began to consider 4th Gospel authorship, I remember feeling that I was treading on holy ground. How dare I question a tradition seemingly so deeply embedded in history?
But the reality is that, because we have wrongly (IMO) ascribed authorship to the Apostle John, who we can clearly discount by using Scripture alone, we are left with confusion and credibility issues. By pinning the tail on the wrong author is worse than assuming no authorship at all.
So many of the arguments used to prove Johanine authorship are completely rooted in circular reasoning. We say that the DWJL was the Apostle John because he was the only disciple to have braved the cross; the only disciple to have known the high priest; the only disciple wealthy enough to own a house near Jerusalem to house Jesus’ mother; the only disciple to have been specially loved by Jesus; the only disciple to have been presumed immortal; the first disciple to believe Jesus had risen; and the only disciple to have been emboldened enough to ask Jesus the infamous “Who is it?” question at the last supper. Yet, when we read the synoptic Gospels, none of these things are said or even hinted at about the Apostle John.
John was apparently impetuous and quick to anger (sons of thunder) but never considered particularly bold or brave. Nothing we read about him could have led to the rumor that he would not die. Matter of fact, as I’ll mention later, that rumor would have been a non-starter. Nothing remotely suggesting that John was known by the high priest and his court; nothing to indicate that he had significant wealth; nothing about him being specially loved by Jesus; and nothing to indicate he had more faith than the rest.
But if you ask anyone about John, they will tell you that John was the most special disciple because of the traits never ascribed to him in the 3 synoptics. And I find that strange. Simply because we automatically assume that he was the DWJL, all the rest of the traits are assumed.
Read through Matthew, Mark and Luke and you won’t find John prominently mentioned. In Matthew’s account, John is never mentioned by name. Matthew always addresses him as the little brother of James. So, without ascribing all the characteristics from the 4th Gospel to John, he’s really not much more prominent than being James’ tag along little brother. We read “Peter, James and John”, and assume that he was one of the big three. But we certainly don’t get that impression from the synoptics. We assume what is never proven.
Now, before somebody blows a gasket, let me make clear that I’m not in the least suggesting that the Apostle John was unimportant. He was one of the 12 for goodness sake and there’s no doubt he was instrumental in the promotion of the Gospel. All I’m saying is that his role during Jesus’ 3.5 year ministry, was not as prominent as some suggest. And it stands to reason that if John was in fact the DWJL, why didn’t he include his big three eyewitness events (raising of Jairus’ daughter; the Garden of Gesthemene; and the transfiguration) in his own account? Matter of fact, out of all of the places where we know John was present (using the synoptics), I don’t believe he mentions any of them in his own account.
However, Lida, if we insert Lazarus as the DWJL, everything fits like a glove. He was the first to believe because he had been raised from the dead himself; Because he was raised from the dead, the rumor could have easily gone forth saying that he wouldn’t die. And someone who had defeated death may have emboldened him enough to be at the cross when it says that all the disciples fled in fear. Also, since he was Jesus’ best friend and a peer, he may have been the boldest, even more bold than Peter and empowered to ask the question “Who is it”?” We know through other sources that Lazarus was a man of means and it can be proved that his sister poured $30k of oil on Jesus. So, it would have been natural for Jesus to have given him care of Jesus’ mother. And He, unlike John, who with Peter clearly unknown in front of the High Priest in Acts 4, was rumored to have been a priest. The 4th Gospel is the only one to mention Malkus (a high priestly servant) by name and the only gospel to point out the face cloth so neatly folded in the corner of the tomb. He was the only named man said to have been specially loved by Jesus and the only man with a motive for concealing authorship i.e. that he didn’t want to usurp the Lord of His preeminence.
Last thought. Jesus plainly stated that both James and John would drink the same cup of suffering that He (Jesus) drank. James died as a martyr and yet many presume that John attained old age. This simply cannot be unless Jesus’ prophetic words about John were false. I think there’s reliable evidence that suggests John died during the Neronic persecution, which was from 64-66 AD. Thus, how could the rumor have ever successfully penetrated the countryside that John would not die, if Jesus, during his earthly ministry, said that John would die a martyr? And, adding to all the these things the 3 internal convincing proofs that John could not have been the DWJL, makes Johanine authorship appear far fetched and whimsical.
I conjecture that if Lazarus’ name had been affixed atop the 4th Gospel from the beginning, his authorship would never have been questioned. Thanks agian, Lida.
Thank you Chuck for the insightful response. You don’t have any idea how I scrambled over the 4 Gospels verifying what you have stated. I have been so involved learning the Tanakh in its original language that I almost have forgotten the Gospel sequence. I embrace your conclusion. What a find! I began challenging my friends who study the Bible with me to start questioning John’s authorship. BTW, never apologize for your boldness in presenting the Truth. You are appreciated.
Lida, thanks again. It’s a rare find when someone responds to the challenge. You did exactly as one should, study to show oneself approved.
You wrote, “Thank you Chuck for the insightful response. You don’t have any idea how I scrambled over the 4 Gospels verifying what you have stated.”
This was my goal from the beginning. To use this 4th Gospel mystery to encourage people to scourgreater the Scriptures. I found that this exercise makes one far more familiar with the Gospel accounts than they were prior to attempting to unravel this conundrum.
But I must admit that the challenge is sometimes met with severe opposition. A PhD in theology once bristled at the mere audacity of Lazarian authorship. He mocked both me and my “silly” assertions. After quoting, “He (Jesus) came with the twelve”, he quipped, “There were clearly ONLY 12 [plus Jesus] at the Last Supper. So the DWJL had to have been one of the twelve.”
Not so fast, I told my large craniumed friend. Sometimes the shallowness of thought, given one’s lofty educational experience, boggles my mind. Higher education, though invaluable, doesn’t guarantee one’s ability to read the word with greater clarity. Indoctrination is often the result.
Jesus arrived with the twelve, but the likelihood that only THE TWELVE were at that house is rather slim, especially given the unfolding event just after Jesus’ ascension.
And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said…
So, when Jesus arrived with the twelve, isn’t it possible that a group such as this in Acts 1, was present? If not 120, certainly more than twelve. This makes sense in light of Mark’s record of the Last Supper. If there were only 12, why would Jesus have made the following statement after they began inquiring who His betrayer was?
They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is ONE OF THE TWELVE, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.
If there were only “the twelve” present, wouldn’t they have thought, “Dah, Jesus, thanks for narrowing it down to us chickens. Of course it’s one of us since there’s no one else in the room!” 🙂 But I believe Jesus wasnt redundantly stating the obvious, but was rather narrowing the field of possible betrayers down to the Twelve from the larger continent. So, to be clear, had there only been twelve, wouldn’t it have been likely that Jesus would have said, “It is one of you!”?
At any rate, though I wouldn’t burn at the stake over this issue, I have found this new understanding of authorship very helpful. The text comes alive when I picture Lazarus racing Peter to the tomb and as he peered in, knowing in his heart that his best friend had risen just as he had done not that long before. Then, he notices the neatly folded face cloth (just as he had worn for 4 days) and leaves that as a hint of authorship in his account.
And at the cross, he, his sister and Jesus’ mother, grieved but were not in abject fear like the twelve. His beloved master was being crucified and in the turmoil he’s asked to take care of his best friend’s mother. After all, he was a man of means and lived just two miles away.
And just prior to the trial, he was able to get Peter into the priestly courtyard past the guards because of his relationship with the High Priest.
And some time after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter, pointing to him, wondered what would come of Jesus’ best friend. So the rumor went forth that the man who had been raised to new life would not die because Jesus said, “If I will but he remain until I calm, what is that to you?” (This is another time indicator regarding His coming – if the possibility existed that this beloved disciple might remain until the second coming, that’s in accord with Jesus’ three other rather emphatic timing statements [Matt 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34]) Jesus question to Peter, “What is that to you?” if my good friends remains until I return, was not a certainty that Lazarus would live to witness the blessed day, but it should be noted as a possibility.
Well, this exercise is clearly a paradigm buster. It taught me that, although tradition is valuable, it must never supersede the Word. Sola Scriptura! Thanks again, Lida! I really appreciate your diligence.
BTW, one more thought. Since we know that the eyewitness providing the backstory in Mark’s account was Peter… Is it possible that the Apostle John functioned in the same capacity as Mark did? Perhaps Lazarus provided his version of the Gospel account and the Apostle John either wrote it as Laz told it, or later finished it? Just thinking out loud. That may have some holes in logic, but I think I’m going to ponder the matter further. Blessings!
Lida, I think my iPad autocomplete turned “scour the Scriptures” into “scourgreater…” LoL Ugh!
The 1st 3 gospels didn’t mention Lazarus as the “DWJL” but even stranger than the silence of the other gospels on all of these Lazarus matters is his abrupt disappearance from the 4th gospel. In 12:9 it tells us the people came to see Lazarus & 12:11 says he had a strong influence on the Jews. But after 12:17 refers to his return from the dead, the 4th gospel never mentions Lazarus again! The 4th gospel’s presentation of Lazarus reveals 2 noteworthy facts. 1st is Lazarus is named in only 11 verses of the 4th gospel, 6 in chapter 11 & 5 in chapter 12. There is no mention of him before ch. 11 v. 1 and after ch.12 v.7 he seems to vanish. But what even more interesting is this “friend whom Jesus loved” is last mentioned in ch.12-just before the obscure and unnamed “DWJL” is first mentioned in the very next chapter (4th gospel 13:23)
The one man associated with Jesus who was also singled out as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly vanishes from the text, and then the only disciple to be singled out as being “loved” by Jesus abruptly appears in the same gospel.
Great observations! Sounds as though you’ve really studied this issue. Bravo!
I call what you referenced, the Clark Kent principle. Lazarus and the DWJL are never at the same place at the same time. As you say, Lazarus forever disappears and the DWJL emerges.
Many argue that the Apostle John is nowhere in the 4th Gospel but that’s simply not true. At the lake after Jesus’ resurrection, we find BOTH the Sons of Zebedee and the DWJL. So, unless the author is attempting to mislead us by making us believe there are actually 6 at the lake (excluding Jesus) instead of 7, where one of the Sons of Thunder is the same as the DWJL, John simply can’t be the DWJL.
The tragedy in all of this is that most think that, shortly after his resurrection, Lazarus is never heard from again. But I believe the reality is much different. We gain great insight through the life of Lazarus in his own 4th Gospel account. Though we don’t see mention of him in his Gospel after chapter 12, we can understand many things about him by the clues he left behind. And you are diligently uncovering those clues. The traits we have traditionally ascribed to the Apostle John seem to rather be those of Jesus’ most beloved friend.
What concerning the internal Scriptural evidence did you not find compelling?
It seems to me that, had it been the traditional assumption of the disciple’s young age, I don’t think we’d have people today arguing for a much older age. Traditions are extremely difficult to challenge because the status quo carries with it far more credibility than it ought. It’s kind of like unseating the reigning boxing champ. The challenger’s got to knock the champ out because very few decisions end up in the challenger’s corner.
I think an interesting angle would be to proceed reading the Gospels with the assumption that all the disciples with the exception of Peter were in their teens. Then from that vantage point, find just Scriptural cause that calls that view into question.
In my view, any time we turn to tradition as a majority source and not to the Scripture, it simply becomes a democratic process. Mob rules. The incumbent usually wins because we’re familiar with them (the older age assumption) and they have the most money, or in this case the weight of countless others who’ve piled on possibly without really questioning the evidence.
I think we’ve had the same issue with the dating of the Revelation. Until recently it had been assumed that it was written in the mid 90’s, which blatantly ignores the majority of the evidence. Once I realized how flimsy this late date evidence was, I was shocked. It proved to me how easy falsehood can be passed down without serious inquiry. If enough dead people of stature make the same claim, it turns into a reliable fact, or so we think.
Chis, any thoughts contrary to the pros of the young age presented? BTW, had RVL simply presented his view based upon what some ECF’s said, I wouldn’t have given it much credence.
Thank you for your passion! Just to let you know, i have no issue with RVL and others who hold to the “young age” theory. I am persuaded already-it was the internal evidence which did so.
I like your analogy of boxing when it comes to challenging traditions. In my case, i have made it into the ring (with a respected professor) our first two rounds are at a draw. The only knock-down punch i can use at this point are published papers where someone takes the position. I am unable to find such a paper as of yet.
I think of it this way, i do not worry what i will say when i stand before king’s or rulers but i first and must be given the audience. Often to combat the mob is to elbow my way through such a crowd and potentially find allies among the mob so as to gain momentum.
What i am asking is this, do you or anyone else have RVL’s case formally documented with citations (of any sort) including internal evidence as well as the secondary sources which RVL refers loosely as presented either in paper or addressed as a lecture series?
If not that formal what is the best recorded medium used which articulates the position as fully as can be at this time?
Remember, my desire and my heart is to use this information to propagate the position if not potentially represent the case among those who are the incumbents.
As to Rev. and its dating, i am ignorant on these issues and could not speak to it. However i agree about patristic positions accepted without depth of inquiry.
The important thing to remember is that God is doing something amazing in the area of hermeneutics and Theology right now! Many strongly held traditions are being questioned and are in open debate format-e.g. Wright/Piper.
This is an exciting time and I praise God to be living in it.
Thank you for your comments and an obvious passion to sharpen iron, sounds a little bit like you know The Rabbi.
I did not do an in depth study of what other scholars think. So I can’t. 🙂
You may head over to Vanderlaan’s board ( http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=1823&tt_page=tt_document$jsp&docID=1492 ) and inquire there of his sources.
Please cite some NT scholars (or OT) that hold to this view in addition to RVL. What are RVL’s source documents on this theory?
Wow, Tiffany, thanks a bunch. You are far too kind but I appreciate and value every word. 🙂
So many folks shy away from theological matters, especially those issues that have traditionally been controversial. To me this is kind of sad because our foundational bedrock beliefs are built upon sound theology. When the storms come, and they will, without firm footing we may begin to sink in the quicksand of doubt and fear.
The church I attend has a rather typical cautious attitude when it comes to doctrine. They don’t want to offend anyone so much so that sometimes they don’t say anything of substance.
I think unity should always be pursued but never at the cost of truth. However, truth without love is of little value because it will never penetrate our defense mechanisms when we feel threatened. It’s no wonder that the methods of argumentation/intimidation so often used, does nothing but send the more timid and humble souls searching for cover.
Nothing worse than getting beaten up by a theological bully. And sometimes Christians can be as mean as rattle snakes. Unfortunately I’ve not always been a model of kindness either. Often times our ideas become so inculcated into who we are, that when our theology or beliefs are attacked we have a tendency to react harshly.
Tiffany, what I have learned the hard way is that everyone has a paradigm…even those who say they don’t. And when you press the right buttons, all of a sudden those who appeared to be rather mild-mannered seem to come to life…and it’s not always a pretty sight 🙂 4th Gospel authorship is one such issue. Eschatology is another and so is free grace vs. lordship salvation.
What I hope is that the Church continues to mature. We need to become adept at sharpening iron without creating divisions. Now I realize that’s a tall order, but if the Gospel means anything we of all people, who are endowed with the Spirit of God, ought to be the most apt at pulling that off.
Well, I’ve done enough babbling. Thanks again for the enjoyable conversation. I’m still curious what prompted your change of mind re the 4th Gospel authorship?
I’ve heard all the craziness about Mary Mag being the author and knew that was bogus, but for some reason John never set well with me. However, no alternatives seemed credible…so I was kind of stalemated.
Now when I read John 20 and I picture Lazarus beating Peter to the tomb, I am spell bound and awed by what comes next. Lazarus doesn’t go in even though he arrives first. You can see the wheels turning in his mind as the Spirit of God is working through his own death experience. So while all the disciples were huddled in a room, still totally perplexed and dismayed at the loss of their master, Lazarus had already believed. All he needed was to see the face cloth set off by itself, just like the one he had worn.
Tiffany, let me ask you what was a perplexing question for me. Have you ever wondered why in the following verse the author states that they didn’t understand that Jesus must rise from the dead? What did Lazarus belief if it wasn’t Jesus’ return to life?
8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20:8-9 (ESV)
I think I have a viable answer but this verse initially caused some confusion. I ran down every derivative of “believe” and found that it meant exactly as I anticipated. It always is a positive affirmation. In other words it doesn’t state the obvious. You wouldn’t say, “I believe I have 10 fingers” unless of course you’d been near a saw blade recently. 🙂
Some have argued that all the DWJL believed was that Jesus’ body was no longer there. In other words it could have been stolen. This really doesn’t fit the way believe is used. Belief is akin to faith. “I believe Jesus’ body is no longer there” does not appear to be a fair characterization of “believe”.
At any rate, since you are a kindred spirit, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.
I’ve got to fly to Indie tomorrow and be out of pocket for a few days. I’ll check my email occasionally. Have a super rest of the week.
You are very careful and thorough, Chuck. I believe all readers who pass by this site will appreciate that very much and will be more open to listen to your thoughts. You have reminded me not to simply throw around ideas, lest I offend someone. Your explanations and offers to hold sidebar conversations are welcoming to all people, wherever we are theologically. Thank you for that. You have taught me something.
Okay thanks! Blessings, Chuck
I meant it! 🙂 No tongue in cheek.
I hope your reference to “hijacking” was tongue in cheek. =) If it was a slightly backhanded remark, let me again apologize. I don’t want to deter from the very good initial post. Thanks again. Blessings! <
Cool stuff, thanks for hijacking.
Incidentally, the possibility exists that John did in fact write the 4th Gospel. Just not the Apostle John. There’s extra-Biblical evidence to support the fact that John Eleazar (another name for Lazarus) is the author.
Also, there was an “Elder John” who could have been the writer, using Lazarus’ eyewitness testimony (much the same as Peter’s part in the Gospel of Mark). We have to remember that at that time there were many Johns and many of them had quite a few names. Mark was even called “John Mark”. (Acts 15:37)
Once I realized how flimsy the historical “proof” of Johanine authorship was, I had no problem pursuing an alternative.
I surely didn’t mean to hijack this blog article. Sorry! I just thought the two arguments were similar in terms of attacking tradition.
First of all, there is a passage in Scripture that begins ‘the secret things belong to God but what has been revealed to us…..’, what it means is, God does not reveal all things to us, but what He does reveal belongs to us and our children forever. He IS God, and only tells us what we need to know
Secondly, God knows the hearts of men; He knew whom to choose and how old they were to be. He always chose unfamous/ not infamous people to work for him; people like you and I are today. I would like to believe he did this for reasons He prefers not to reveal, but isn’t it a lot easier for us to relate to his narratives when they are about people like you and I? Also they were HUNGRY for salvation (from the Roman oppression of the culture) they believed Him to be the Savior who would overthrow the Roman government.
You know, they never truly understood His Divine Purpose.
And finally why are you inviting people to join you in questioning God’s Holy Word? I detect a less than honorable motive. I think Jesus would say ‘get thee from behind me satan’.
Please be cautious with your words, you never want to to be held accountable for misleading other seekers.
In conclusion, The Blessed Holy Spirit will guid you to the correct answers if you ask Him. (‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find’)
Its fun to think about things like, who actually did the writing for John the Apostle; seekers have done it for
centuries, but no one will ever know, because Our Blessed Creator, did not find it important enough to reveal to His Creation.
Answers are found by going to a Good Bible Based Church (non judgmental church). No where in Scripture does it say not to drink or dance or other man made rules, i.e.. no meat on Friday.
What it does say is Our bodies are created by God and in His Image. They are ‘the Temple of the Holy Spirit’.
Don’t dishonor them.
In Christ’s Holy Name,
I thought your comments were insightful and rather unusual. How many people on the face of this earth believe the 4th Gospel’s writer was not John? You are probably one out of every 100,000 believers.
Tiffany, to be quite honest, when I first began investigating 4th Gospel authorship I was rather uncomfortable. Since emblazoned across the top it read, “The Gospel According to John”. So I was a little concerned that I was questioning the inspiration of Scripture. I read a booklet written by Jim Phillips, “The Disciple Jesus Loved” and immediately the question of inspiration was dispelled. Since the author never names himself, but only used the title, “The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”, I realize that there was nothing wrong with making certain that the Apostle John was indeed the author.
I think the best way to approach 4th Gospel authorship is to first determine if John could be the author, using Scripture alone. Once we are confronted with unequivocal evidence that John could not have been the author (there are 3 key passages), then the question of who did, is fair game. I believe, had the 4th Gospel been entitled, “The Gospel According to Lazarus”, no one would have ever questioned authorship.
The evidence for Lazarian authorship fits like a face cloth. 🙂 But why does this matter anyway? Does the author change the content? No, absolutely not, but many things don’t make sense if we believe John is author.
I think truth is important no matter the consequences. Many liberal critiques of the Bible are assailing the Bible and we give them the rope to hang us. We lose credibility when we insist on something that can be disproved. Another really important reason is that, once we realize how tradition can and does err, we are free to question tradition in other areas.
This 4th Gospel study, much like this article arguing for the young age of disciples, exalts the integrity of the Scriptures. That’s why I share these things with many folks.
If anyone who reads this would like more info I’d be glad to share it.
Thanks again Tiffany. Have a wonderful week. Thanks also to the writer of this blog article.
Haha! I just reread your first post. You believe its Lazarus too, don’t you?
Actually, I agree with you on the disciples ages! I’m sorry you thought we were in disagreement. I DO think they were young. While the male disciples were considered “men” back then, I think WE would consider them “adolescents” today. I just don’t think we should call them adolescents because it carries with it a connotation that did not exist back then, therefore needlessly skewing our interpretation.
About the Lazarus thing….if we start with the last chapter of John and work backwards I think there are some suggestions (no hard evidence) that the disciple Jesus loved was Lazarus. John 21: There is a reason for the rumor that the beloved disciple might not die. He had already been raised from the dead once! Now, go to the empty tomb. What’s the difference between Peter and the beloved disciple? The beloved disciple believes. Why? Because perhaps he too had been raised from the dead. He knew first hand that it could happen. In 19:25-27 we are told that the beloved disciple has a household and that Jesus trusted him enough to take care of Mary. We know that Lazarus had a home and that he would have been old enough and close enough to Jesus to fulfill this responsibility (perhaps more so than a much younger John). In 13:23-26 the beloved disciple is reclining on Jesus. Who knew him well? Whose house did Jesus stay at often? Lazarus’. And most convincingly, in John 11:1-3, Jesus is told “Him whom you love is sick,” referring to Lazarus. This is the only phrasing found in the gospel that is similar to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
Of course I did not come up with all of this stuff. More and more scholars today are leaning toward the idea that the DWJL was Lazarus. Check out some journal articles about it. It’s interesting stuff! I am no scholar and so I’m sure they will explain these ideas better than me.
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Good comments. We are in total agreement regarding reading our 21st century mindset into Scripture. I see this problem constantly. Very often, culture and “audience relevance” are never considered. What’s interesting Tiffany, is that Ray Vander Laan’s website, “Follow the Rabbi”, is dedicated to interpreting Scripture through the eyes of first century Judaism. It is this backdrop that causes Vander Laan to argue for the disciple’s young age.
Many of the reasons for his assertion of the disciple’s youth have to do with the culture of the Jews in the first century. Much more than in our culture, everything was accelerated. The girls married when they were in their early teens and the men were often married around 18. Yet we know of only one disciple who was married.
And Tiffany, did you read Matthew 17:24-27. If any of the disciples were older than 20, then why did Jesus pay the temple tax for only Peter and himself?
Jesus said, “Take that [the coin] and give it to them for you and Me.”
I think the preponderance of the evidence is weighted rather heavily for their very young ages.
BTW, Tiffany, what makes you think the DWJL was Larzarus, considering 2,000 years of tradition says otherwise?
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I somehow wandered across this site and felt I had to add the fact that “adolescence” did not exist in antiquity. The concept of a period between puberty and adulthood is a fairly new one, dating back to 1904 when Stanley Hall wrote the book, Adolescence.
In Jesus’ day there were children and adults. When you became old enough to work, you were considered an adult. I think we need to be careful not to impose our 21st century lens upon the text…
By the way, I think “the disciple that Jesus loved” was Lazarus 🙂
Love the discussion,
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Great stuff! I think the young age of the fearless (sometimes fearful) crew is right on target. You offered two objections to the young age theory, one of which was Jesus giving his mother to John. Let me ask you a wild and crazy question. Where does it say that Jesus gave His mother to “John”? Without presupposition, and using only the Scriptures, I’d like to see a proof that John was in fact the disciple whom Jesus Loved. I have some questions you might find interesting and rather thought provoking.
There is only one man named in the Bible who is specifically said to be loved by Jesus. Is it John? Is there anything we know about John that would have caused the rumor to spread that he wasn’t going to die? When the Scripture tells us that ALL the disciples fled in fear, what about John gives us the belief that he the only disciple bold enough to stand unfazed at the foot of the cross?
What motivation would there have been for John to conceal his identity? Why do we believe John would have been reclining at the table lying next to Jesus? What about John do we know that leads us to believe that he was the first to believe Christ had been raised from the dead? Is there any indication that John was personally known by the High Priest? Does it make sense that Jesus would have entrusted his mother to a youngster (some say he may have been as young as 10 to 12) who lived well over a 100 miles north of Jerusalem? Is John ever referenced in the Gospel which bears his name? Were there only 12 at the last supper?
I believe I can prove that John was NOT the DWJL. I also believe the evidence is so profound and overwhelming for another, that it will make your faith in the Scriptures rise to a new level.
Just so you can be certain where I’m coming from, I believe the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of the Living God. So I am in no way assaulting the integrity of God’s Word by questioning 4th Gospel authorship. Tradition is in fact the ONLY case most use to “prove” that John was/is the DWJL, yet the internal evidence is devastatingly opposed to Johanine authorship.
Why do we expect John to be so bold that he was the only one willing to ask Jesus who it was who would betray him? Peter was even afraid. Do we find anyone reclining at the table with Jesus in any scenes other than the Last Supper?
Lastly, one would think that the 3 most amazing and pivotal days in John’s life, where we know he was an eyewitness: The Transfiguration; the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the Garden of Gethsemane; would have been included in his own Gospel…yet even though all of these events are included in each of the synoptics, not one is mentioned in his own account? Isn’t that strange? John chose not to write about the most significant events in his life?
So significant have we made John, yet Matthew always lists John as the brother of James. Not one scene where we know John was present in the 3 Gospels, is included in his Gospel account. Not one. And why is it that the Gospel of John is so different from the other 3 if in fact they were all from Galilee? The style is appreciably different.
Sorry for barging in here and adding these things to the discussion. I just thought the 4th Gospel authorship was pertinent to the article at hand since I do not believe Jesus handed His mother over to a youngster who lived more than 100 miles due north.
When I studied this subject, there were three ancillary and profound benefits.
1. I learned to pay close attention to Scriptural detail i.e. the fact the “face cloth” is only mentioned in the 4th Gospel etc.
2. The Scriptures miraculous and divine nature came to the fore
3. I realized that tradition (though often valuable) has the capacity to deceive
If anyone has further interest in pursuing this study, let me know and I’d be glad to offer assistance. I must tell you that I was thoroughly shocked at the conclusions and rather dismayed at my own inability to “see” clearly for 35 years in the Lord. Better late than never! =)
Thanks for the wonderful info on the age of the disciples. Your arguments are excellent. Wow! I will refer others to your above lesson.
There is good reason for the gospel of John being so different from the other 3 and why John’s inclusion in the other 3 are not included in his own gospel account. The synoptic gospels had already been in circulation for a while when John wrote his account, there was no need to recount every story. It is not historical as much as the others. John writes it himself: “Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31).
According to the testimony of the early church, the apostle John is indeed the author of the gospel of John, Irenaeus (c. A.D. 130-200) names John as the author. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John, making his testimony extremely reliable. John is listed as the brother of James because he is younger, not less important. What motivation could he have to conceal his identity?: humility.
Sorry this took me so long to approve, Lucas! Welcome.
I answered some of your points in this post: https://kbonikowsky.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-disciple-jesus-loved-unsolved-mystery/
Let me know what you think. I am fascinated by the mystery surrounding author of this gospel.
Lucas, I find it interesting that you’re so enamored with evidence that is suspect at best. You wrote: “Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John, making his testimony extremely reliable.” Wasn’t this the same Irenaeus who claimed that Jesus was more than 50 when he died?
So the historical record is anything but clear. Lucas, there is only one man whom Jesus specifically said that He loved. The same man where prior to being raised from the dead, this was said:
(John 11:25-26) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me WILL LIVE EVEN IF HE DIES, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me WILL NEVER DIE. Do you believe this?”
Now, we know full well that Jesus wasn’t claiming that Lazarus would live forever. However, after Lazarus was raised from the dead, it could have easily been misconstrued that Lazarus would never die. How were they to know that the man who, for 3 days was entombed to the point where it said “He stinketh”, would ever die?
By contrast, consider the fates of James and John according to Jesus.
(Mark 10:38-39) But Jesus said to them [James and John], “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
What was the baptism in which Jesus promised. Martyrdom. So how could the rumor have spread about John living forever when Jesus made it clear that John’s life would be cut short? And it should be noted that the testimony that John lived into the AD 90’s is as suspect as the comments from Irenaeus. Matter of fact, if we presume the account you mentioned, Lucas, that would be in direct contradiction to the words of Christ. There is credible evidence that both James and John died during the Neronic persecution (62-64 AD).
So to whom was it said, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” The “other disciple”, the “disciple whom Jesus loved”, right? Was this John or someone else? Who was present at the time?
(John 21:2) Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the SONS OF ZEBEDEE, and TWO OTHERS of His disciples were together.
Seven were present, of which were Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the Apostle John, James his brother AND two OTHER disciples. So John cannot be one of these “other disciples” that have been mentioned throughout the 4th Gospel. Later in the text (below), we find that one of these two “other disciples” is said to be the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
John 21:20-21 Peter, turning around, saw the DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” 21 So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?”
Since we know that John is present (many say that nowhere in the Gospel of John is John mentioned and we saw above that this is false), one of the two other disciples must in fact be “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” There are only 7 present, 5 are named and two are not. And how do we know that one of these mysterious “other disciples” is the “disciple whom Jesus loved”? Let’s backtrack.
(John 18:15-16) Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was ANOTHER DISCIPLE. Now that disciple was KNOWN TO THE HIGH PRIEST, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside. So the OTHER DISCIPLE, who was KNOWN TO THE HIGH PRIEST, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.
Two things here. This “other disciple” is not some random disciple. It’s obvious from the context that the author, attempting to conceal himself, is dropping hints about who he is, as he has done throughout the 4th Gospel. The fact that it was said that he was known by the High Priest, twice in two verses, makes clear that he had relationships within the priestly realm Peter, nor the other disciples enjoyed.
So, when Peter and John are before the High Priest in Acts 4, do we see this familiarity play out? Not in the least.
(Acts 4:13) Now as they [their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent.] observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and BEGAN to recognize them as having been with Jesus.
It is obvious that neither Peter nor John were “known by the High Priest”. Peter couldn’t even get past the temple guard without the help of the “other disciple”. And now they are only recognized as having been with Jesus. There is nothing indicating that John was in the least known to any of them.
So following the flow of the text, this “other disciple” in John 18 is now referenced at the cross and is none other than the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”
(John 19:26-27) When Jesus then saw His mother, and THE DISCIPLE WHOM HE LOVED standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
It should be noted that Lazarus lived 2 miles from the cross in Bethany.
We learn that all the disciples fled in fear, yet we are told that John, who gives us no indication in any passage that he is fearless, is supposedly at the cross. Who might have been fearless? Perhaps the man who’d risen from the dead and was feeling rather bulletproof?
Next we will learn that “the disciple whom Jesus loved” is the none other than the “other disciple”. This is really important.
(John 20:2) So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the OTHER DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
What we find at Christ’s resurrection is something extremely telling regarding this 4th Gospel authorship issue.
(John 20:8) So the OTHER DISCIPLE who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and BELIEVED.
Though he clearly did not fully comprehend the depth of Jesus’ resurrection (as is stated in the following verse), this beloved disciple knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He was the first disciple to BELIEVE.
And who is the most likely candidate for understanding what he was witnessing? The one who had already been raised from the dead who wore that face cloth not that long before. And which is the ONLY Gospel to pay such attention to the detail of the face cloth? The 4th Gospel!
(John 20:7) and the FACE-CLOTH which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but ROLLED UP AND PLACED BY ITSELF.
This is incredible! And what were the 11 doing at this point? (Judas was dead) If John was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” who was the first disciple to believe, we should find Jesus addressing the 11, extolling the amazing belief of John, right? Is this what happened? Not hardly.
(Mark 16:14 Afterward He appeared to THE ELEVEN themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them FOR THEIR UNBELIEF AND HARDNESS OF HEART, because THEY HAD NOT BELIEVED those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Since John is clearly at this meeting as one of the 11, and since John along with the other 10 were given a serious tongue lashing because they “had not believed”, how with any intellectual honestly can we say that John was the disciple whom Jesus loved? John would have been lauded for his belief yet he was chastised with the rest of the 11.
Lucas asked, “What motivation could he have to conceal his identity? humility(?).”
What motivation would John have had? None that I can think of. There’s not one shred of evidence that John had any of the characteristics of the beloved disciple.
1. Where was John ever singled out as specifically loved by Jesus?
2. Where do we learn that John was fearless? The “disciple whom Jesus loved” was not only at the cross when all other disciples had fled in fear and were later found to be hovelled in a room in total dismay. The disciple whom Jesus loved was the only one bold enough to have asked that the “Who is it Lord?” question in the upper room.
3. Why would the rumor have spread that John would not die since Jesus told them that John would be martyred?
4. Why would Jesus have entrusted His mother to a teen who lived 100 miles north of Jerusalem?
5. Where do we learn that John had reclined next to Jesus before? Nowhere. So why do we assume he’s reclining next to Jesus at the last supper?
6. What is it about John that demonstrates his faith to the point where he was the first to believe?
7. Where in any passage do we learn that John would have needed to conceal authorship?
Yet, every one of the above traits fit Lazarus like a glove. Why would he have thought it was necessary to conceal authorship? Of course we can only speculate, but after Lazarus’ resurrection he had achieved rock star status. People were coming out to see him as much as they were coming to see Jesus. Lazarus may have not wanted to usurp Jesus in any way. He may have become very uncomfortable with the attention.
(John 12:9-11) The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, BUT THAT THEY MIGHT ALSO SEE LAZARUS, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests PLANNED TO PUT LAZARUS TO DEATH also; 11 because ON ACCOUNT OF HIM many of the Jews were going away and WERE BELIEVING in Jesus.
Lazarus was the first, other than Jesus to have had a contract placed on his life and many were coming to faith in Jesus because of him.
It’s my contention that had Lazarus’ name been placed as author of the 4th Gospel from the beginning, there would have been no question as to it’s author. And I think it’s a travesty that we have placed so much emphasis on sketchy 3rd party anecdotal evidence written some 100 years after the fact, when the internal evidence clearly proves that the Apostle John could not have been the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Was Lazarus the author? We can’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt but I think the preponderance of the evidence points squarely at him.
Lucas wrote, “John is listed as the brother of James because he is younger, not less important.”
Have you traced John throughout the NT? In the book of Matthew, John is never even mentioned by name, and is always referred to as the brother of James. In Mark, the majority of time he is listed as James’ brother; other times as the last in a list of disciples always following his brother; and only one time is he listed alone. That time it’s simply because he asked a question. And in the book of Luke, two times he is actually listed before his older brother. So in the synoptics we do not find John as a prominent disciple. The ONLY reason he has reached such high stature is because of the assumption that he’s in fact the disciple whom Jesus loved. But that’s circular reasoning since we have already shown that John cannot be the author of the 4th Gospel. So if one simply read the 3 synoptic accounts, there’s no way John would have been presumed to have been prominent among them.
Last comment in this tome of an answer. 🙂
1. Not one event where John is named as present in the synoptics, is found in the 4th Gospel. Not one! Isn’t that slightly odd in an eyewitness account?
2. And even more startling is the fact that none of the three most life-changing events in which John participated, are recorded in the Gospel he supposedly authored.
a) The transfiguration is mentioned in all 3 synoptics but not in the the 4th Gospel
b) The Garden of Gesthemane is found in 2 out 3 of the synoptics, but not in the 4th Gospel
c) The raising of Jairus’ daughter is found in 2 out of the 3 synoptics, but not in the 4th Gospel
John witnessed the Transfiguration, was present at the Garden of Gesthemene and saw Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead. Yet, in his own account, he didn’t even mention one of them? That’s pretty difficult to believe.
I think the evidence speaks for itself. I believe Kblon has provided evidence that John was a very young man and I think we’ve seen here and elsewhere in the link referenced that there’s good reason to believe that he was not the beloved disciple.
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Quick thanks to Paul who caught a citation error in Chuck’s previous comment. It was inadvertant and we’ve attributed the author. Thank you for pointing out Ben Witherington’s work on this topic! His article on the author of the Fourth Gospel can be read here: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/bibleandculture/2007/01/was-lazarus-the-beloved-disciple.html
I believe this study is very important because it effects the way Christians and churches go about living out the great commission. If it is true that the disciples were “teenagers” (which I believe they were) then the model Jesus taught to live out the great commission is high school evangelism and discipleship. If we then marry this reality with an understanding of the development of the human brain in adolescence – as kids search for identity in the world and answers to the fundamental questions in life – we find that the front of the world wide spiritual battle is with kids. This goes right along with the statistic that 95% of people who follow Christ in their lifetime make a commitment to Jesus before the age of 19.
In working in youth evangelism and discipleship for the past 10 years I can testify that kids of all backgrounds deeply desire for adults to get involved in their lives, love and support them, and point them to answers (Christ!). In my experience, our problem as a church is that we are so wrapped up in different models of “doing church” that we fail to recognize how Christ modeled our mission.
Wow! I completely agree with your point Jeremy. I also work with teens in a youth ministry. I am fairly young myself, but had never been given the opportunity to consider that the disciples were mostly teens until I attended a youth retreat this weekend where the speaker challenged the youth that Jesus chose people like them to do his work. It really made me think a lot about the subject. I know my teens and I see their enthusiasm every week; those who are Christians are so on fire for God that even I feel ashamed sometimes. I think those who object this idea to the extreme are not being open-minded enough. Many believe teens are incapable, but there are so many qualitites about them that I can see Jesus wanting in his ministry. Also, why would Jesus want people who were older, even if only in their 20’s or 30’s; he needed them around for a long time to continue spreading the Gospel once he was gone. If anything, when the teens this weekend realized that “Hey, Jesus chose disciples that were our age” if gave them so much confidence; they were challenged to step it up. We need to allow them more places in our churches or else we are not going to have a church in future generations.
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Very insightful, Shana. I’ve been told that the age of the disciples is inconsequential. I think, for the reasons you have so eloquently stated, this is simply not the case. Matter of fact, by the time the disciples were the age that many have assumed they were at the time of their initial calling, they were already seasoned veterans of the faith. In today’s society we relegate youth to video games and expect that they have no capacity for serious ministry and discipleship. That’s utter hogwash. Does the love of Christ only manifest itself through the chronologically mature. Clearly, I believe that the immature must not be given responsibility greater than their capacity, but the truth is, there are teens who are more spiritually mature than some Church elders who happen to be successful in the world. Thanks again, Shana, for bringing this to my attention and as always I appreciate kbonikowsky and her effort to have brought this thought to light. 🙂
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I agree with you Shana and I think it is time to rethink Sunday School programs. Teens have greater responsibilities and activities these days and may be better served in small group activities rather than formal classes geared to particular church curriculums or archaic programs where they are less than thrilled to attend. How about evening or afternoon music sessions? What about an emphasis on writing or hobbies such as art or sports. A place or time where discussions relating to the teachings of Jesus are presented as part of the activities.
I like to think of the disciples as young men as well, it just makes more sense as the author says. As we grow older it seems that we get rooted in what life we have established, for someone to uproot it seems that a younger (more impulsive) person is more plausible. As it is not documented in the word I won’t say I know, but in my mind that 16-25 age range is what I see.
If you want more food for thought Saul (paul) was a young man when blinded on his way to demascus. He had the zealous nature of a teen to get something done.
Good arguments. Thanks.
Speculation is great, but I would caution teachers to present thier speculation as such and not as fact…as I have heard.
A couple other thoughts on the topic…since it is factual that Peter was old enough to have his own home, family, and business, how likely is it that his brother Andrew was a “young school boy”? Also, as stated above, Matthew was a tax collector, but in addition to that Jesus spent time at “Matthew’s house” (Matthew 9:10). And finally, James and John are described as “Simon’s partners” (Luke 5:10). Again, how likely is it that Peter would be in business with young high schoolers? I feel it is more likely that at least several Disciples were more mature than adolesence. Food for thought, thank you for yours.
Still, James and John were working with their father Zebedee. Young Jewish men were to ply their trade (learn the family business) if they were not chosen to follow a Rabbi. These two young men were still working with dad, giving credence to the possibility that they were still too young to be off on their own.
Their father would be less likely to object to his sons following a “Rabbi” than if they just deserted their jobs with him and ran off after an itinerant preacher.
I am currently working on my dissertation, which addresses the age of the disciples, as part of a Graduate Diploma in theology and religious studies at King’s College, London. I plan to put it on academia.edu when it has been submitted and marked. I will provide a link here as there is remarkably little interest in the academic community in looking at this question.
The dissertation is now finished, submitted and marked, so I have uploaded it on Academia.edu. Here is the link:
There are a number of examples of the use of the word neaniskos, “young man”, both in the Old Teststament (Septuagint) and the New Testament and there is often an association with being old enough to be but not yet married.
The one issue that concerned me about Ray Vander Laan’s approach is that he assumed that all Jewish men were married by 18. This comes from the Talmud, which was not written until centuries after Jesus’ time, so probably does not reflect practices in first-century Judea. The only reference that we have to age at marriage for Jewish men in first-century Judea is the Messianic Rule (1Q28a) in the Dead Sea Scrolls which prohibits marriage before the age of 20.
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That’s terrific Laurence! I’m downloading it today to read over the next week. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I’m done. Congratulations on its completion! (And, I’m tickled this little blog post got a citation.)
Just a thought about the “young high-schooler” comment. Remember, Jewish boys were not longer boys after age 13 but young men. There was no “high-school” and during their ages of 16-18 they were young men in their society and not just adolescents. Therefore it is very likely that several of them could have been in that age bracket.
Good comments Dan. Often we attempt to read the NT through the lens of our 21st century westernized culture. It appears that the maturing process began much earlier in the first century.
Well, the biggest part of misunderstanding the Bible comes from people trying to relate those past times with modern times! They were in a different country and century. Jesus called the disciples children many times, and also said you basically had to have the mind of a child to be open to the gospel. They were also called unlearned at Pentecost. They had fears, thoughts,and ideas of people under twenty. Jesus was 30 and mentoring young men to carry on the gospel. Peter may have been only a few years younger than Jesus. He was mature enough for Jesus to give the “keys to the church.” Besides, what grown man with gray hair and a beard would simply leave everything to follow a 30 year old? And don’t let things like Matthew 9:10 make you think that he owned a house. They could have been at his parent’s home. And tax collector to us is the IRS. But to them….? Fisherman= Kids fishing to bring food home for their family, not the fisherman we know today. Get it?
Yes, ignoring and/or omitting context is the death knell to sound Biblical interpretation. You make some great points. When my kids used to invite their friends over they would always refer to our house as their house. And this applies not less to NT times as well. My son would say, “Come over to MY HOUSE after dinner”, and neither his friends nor their parents were ever under the delusion that our 9 year old owned “his” house. LoL
Along similar lines, errant traditions can easily become “fact” in the absence of credible counter evidence. On our visit to Ephesus in 2013, I was struck by the certainty of their extra-Biblical claims regarding rather dubious traditions. Since we have so precious few Christian writings between the end of the Neronic persecution (AD 64-66) and the first century’s conclusion, one can see how easily rumors and innuendo could flourish.
At Ephesus they’ve turned the Apostle John into a figure larger than life… positing that he was a mid 30s wealthy businessman who had multiple homes and was well known by the High Priest. We visited the house that Mary was supposed to have lived in during the latter stages of her life and we also traipsed over to John’s supposed grave site. Just like traditions have grown regarding the age of the disciples, so too everything about the Apostle John seems to have taken on a life of its own. Interestingly, every Johanine characteristic has been coopted from that which we learn about the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved (DWJL).
How do we know that John was so well-known by the priestly family? How do we know that John was wealthy and that his second home was just a few miles from the cross? How do we know that he cared for Mary in the later stages of her life? How do we know that John was a bearded 30 something year old at the times of Jesus’ ministry? These are all things gleaned and said about the DWJL, not the Apostle John specifically. Interestingly, when we read the synoptic accounts, not only is John never a focal point, but we learn very little about this man from these accounts.
In Matthew’s Gospel, for instance, John is never even mentioned solely, but rather always in the context of his older brother, James.
(Matt 4:21) James and his brother John
(Matt 10:2) James and John his brother
(Matt 17:1) and John the brother of James
(Matt 26:37) Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him
Therefore, if we completely ignore the assumption that John was the DWJL (I realize most are unwilling to do that but humor me for a moment), and if we consider the synoptic accounts alone, we would hardly know anything about John (other than the fact that he tagged along with his older brother). Now, let me be clear. I’m not in the least lessening the impact that the Apostle John had as he matured. All I’m suggesting is that John was not only quite young but that he was nowhere near the most or even one of the most prominent figures of the 12.
During our travels in the UK this past month, just as in Ephesus it was obvious how revered John was as the most famous/important apostle. Oftentimes was depicted alongside Mary, Jesus’ mother.
However, the fact that there’s nothing whatsoever in the synoptic Gospels that even hint at any of these things is problematic. And it seems to bother few because tradition has become so sacrosanct that to even question it sends one headlong into a cesspool of heresy.
If John was in fact known by the High Priest, why, in Acts 4, was he not even recognized by the priestly cohort? Why is there nothing said in the synoptics about John’s incredibly special relationship with Jesus or his status within the priestly family?
Nothing in the accounts of Matthew, Mark or Luke even remotely suggest that John was Jesus’ most beloved friend; that he fearlessly braved the cross when all the others fled; that he owned multiple homes and a successful fishing business; that he would have been the only emboldened one to ask Jesus the infamous “Who is it?” question at the Last Supper; or that he was rumored to be impervious to death.
And neither is there proof that any of the disciples (other than Peter) were older than 20 at the time of Jesus’ ministry. We’re often so quick to appeal to tradition even when it stands in opposition to the Biblical record. Fourth Gospel authorship and the age of the disciples seems to track very closely in terms of the way traditions have been crafted.
So, Craig, as you have pointed out, there really is ample evidence suggesting that Kay is right: The 12 were initially a substantially teenage posse. 🙂